‘They’re weird,’ Wally said.
‘They’re family,’ Mum said. ‘Your aunt and your cousin.’
‘If they’re family, then why’ve we never met them?’ Wally asked. ‘Why’ve we never even heard of them?’
Ten year old Cub is excited when her aunt and cousin move into the long empty house next door to theirs. Cub’s family – her parents, older brother Cassie, and twin brother Wally – are outcasts, ostracized by the town for the terrible crimes committed by her grandfather before Cub was born. Cub has limited understanding of why they are hated, but her only friend in the world is Wally, so she has high hopes that Tilly, her cousin, will be her new best friend.
But the presence of Tilly and her mother don’t create the kind of change Cub is hoping for. Rather, the tensions that have been bubbling beneath the surface seem to rise up, and when Cassie brings home a new friend, Ian, the tension rises.
The Yellow House, winner of this year’s Vogel Literary Award, is gut-wrenching story of family secrets, betrayal and inter-generational disadvantage. Seeing events through the eyes of Cub gives the story an intriguing perspective – Cub is naive and innocent, in many ways, and the readers must navigate and interpret events only through Cub’s understanding.
Unsettling to read, this is a well-woven haunting tale.
The Yellow House, by Emily O’Grady
Allen & Unwin, 2018
I’ve always had small hands. The rest of me isn’t very big, either, but my hands are almost as small as a kid’s, with spindly white fingers and nails like broken seashells. David likes this about me. That there’s something about me that hasn’t changed for all these years.
Ever since Cathy and David met as troubled teens, they’ve belonged together, even though Cathy has married another man and had a bunch of kids. When David comes back into her life, she abandons her family,and spends her days trying to make David happy. David loves her, but he also has fantasies about other women, and Cathy finds herself helping him to kidnap and murder them.
Based on the life of Catherine Birney. ‘Cathy’ is one of twelve short stories which make up The Love of a Bad Man. Each story imagines the life and motivations of the women who have loved famous ‘bad men’, from Serial killer David Birney, to Hitler, to Jim Jones of Jonestown infamy. The voices are brutally honest, sometimes bewildered, occasionally naive but always compelling, as readers are offered insight into the lives and motivations of the women who supported, enabled and endured the men in different measure.
Not hopeful reading, but satisfyingly compelling.
The Love of a Bad Man, by Laura Elizabeth Woollett